28 February 17 The Straits Times by NICOLE CHIA
Singapore's aspiring male professional tennis players can start accumulating ranking points here at home, with three consecutive International Tennis Federation (ITF) Futures tournaments to be held at the Kallang Tennis Centre in May.
The Futures tournaments on the ITF circuit form the third and lowest level of the men's professional tennis competition, after the top-tier ATP World Tour and the ATP Challenger Tour.
Starting from May 15, each of the week-long ITF Singapore Futures tournaments will offer US$15,000 (S$21,000) in prize money.
Players can earn ATP singles ranking points in each round of the main draw, except for the round of 32, while doubles points are awarded only in the semi-finals and final.
This is the first time the Republic will host an ITF Futures tournament, and the Singapore Tennis Association's (STA) deputy general manager Wilson Tay said: "This gives local players the opportunity to compete at the international level on home ground."
FUTURE IS RIGHT HERE
It's also always nice to play at home, with the crowd and your team supporting you.
ROY HOBBS, national tennis player, on the prospect of playing an ITF Futures tournament on Singapore soil.
Singapore will be awarded wildcard entries for both the qualifying and main draw events, although Tay said a decision on how they will be allocated has yet to be made.
National tennis player Roy Hobbs, who has been playing on the ITF pro circuit for about seven years, is excited at the prospect of playing in a Futures tournament on home ground.
The 27-year-old, who held a career-high singles ranking of 1,346 last March, has dropped out of the rankings after injury affected his play, but has set a goal to reach the top 1,000 by the end of the year.
He added: "Having a tournament in Singapore would hopefully give more Singaporean players the chance to get wild cards into the main draw.
"It's also always nice to play at home, with the crowd and your team supporting you."
Ahead of the three Futures events, the STA and Sport Singapore are jointly organising an invitational men's team tournament with the Republic's South-east Asian neighbours.
The March 6-10 competition at Kallang Tennis Centre will feature four teams - Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. Each nation will be represented by four players, with Hobbs, Shaheed Alam, Steve Ng and Joshua Liu flying the Singapore flag.
Tay said the tournament will provide valuable match experience ahead of the Republic's Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group 4 play-offs in Bahrain in early April.
The 33-year-old stressed that the tournament is not a "mini SEA Games", adding: "We understand that the region may not send its best players, so we positioned the tournament as a friendly event where our neighbours can come and train before the Futures."
Shaheed, 18, is looking forward to assessing where he stands when pitted against his regional competitors.
He said: "This will translate to us working on areas of improvement during training, so we can do better."
The Republic Polytechnic student, who in 2015 became the first Singaporean male player to win an ITF junior singles title, has never progressed beyond the qualifying rounds of Futures tournaments since he started playing on the ITF pro circuit last year.
Nevertheless, he hopes to earn a main-draw wild card to the Singapore ITF Futures tournaments so he can rack up some ATP ranking points.
He said: "The starting is always difficult, but I hope to turn pro eventually - that's the goal."